Why do women live longer than men?

Everywhere in the world women live longer than men – but this was not always the case. The available data from rich countries shows that women didn’t live longer than men in the 19th century. What’s the main reason women live longer than men? What is the reason the advantage has grown as time passes? The evidence is limited and we have only limited answers. We know that behavioral, biological and environmental factors all play a role in the fact that women live longer than men; However, we’re not sure how significant the impact of each of these factors is.

In spite of the amount, we can say that at least a portion of the reason why women live longer than men do today however not as in the past, is to do with the fact that a number of significant non-biological elements have changed. These variables are evolving. Some are well known and relatively straightforward, like the fact that men smoke more often. Others are more complicated. For example, there is evidence that in rich countries the female advantage increased in part because infectious diseases used to affect women disproportionately a century ago, so advances in medicine that reduced the long-term health burden from infectious diseases, especially for survivors, ended up raising women’s longevity disproportionately.

Everywhere in the world women tend to live longer than men

The first chart below shows life expectancy at birth for men and women. It is clear that every country is above the line of parity diagonally. This implies that a baby girl from any country can anticipate to live longer than her older brother.

This graph shows that even though women enjoy an advantage across all countries, differences between countries could be significant. In Russia women live for 10 years longer than men. In Bhutan, the difference is only half a year.



The advantage of women in life expectancy was less in developed countries that it is today.

Let’s now look at how the female advantage in terms of longevity has changed over time. The chart below illustrates the male and female life expectancies at birth in the US between 1790 until 2014. Two distinct features stand out.

The first is that there is an upward trend: Men as well as women in the US live much, much longer today than a century ago. This is in line with historical increases in life expectancy everywhere in the world.

The second is that there is an increase in the gap between men and women: female advantage in terms of life expectancy used to be very small, افضل شامبو وبلسم (what is it worth) but it grew substantially during the last century.

Using the option ‘Change country by country’ in the chart, you can check that these two points are applicable to the other countries with available information: Sweden, France and the UK.

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